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Archive for May, 2011

Calling Aspiring Writers

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on May 30, 2011

The QWC /Hachette Maunsxcript Development Program has opened for writers of young adult fiction, fiction and non fiction, Applications close 21 July.

The Allen& Unwin Manuscript Development Program for emerging writers of children’s fiction is open. Applications close 14 July.

Here’s your opportunity to put your work before industry professionals. So polish that manuscript!

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Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Mentorships, Publishers, Publishing Industry, Writing Craft, Writing for children, Writing for Young Adults, Writing Opportunities | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Read to Write

Posted by tansyrr on May 30, 2011

There are times in my life when I forget how to read.

To be more specific, I forget why it is that reading needs to be a prioritised task, if not in my day, then at least in my week.

Priority of tasks is one of those things that absolutely drives my day. I have two daycare days a week for my baby, which is heavenly, and yet my elder daughter’s after school activities take a chunk out of both those days – so my working day starts somewhere about 9:30am after the school run, and finishes about 2:30 as I head out for the second school run. Five hours, twice a week.

On non-daycare days, I get somewhere between an hour and two hours of baby-free time, depending entirely on how long she naps. So priority of tasks is huge to me. I have to write, obviously. I have a book to finish this year. I don’t have enough time to be able to manage two big brain-heavy working shifts in the day, which means if there are edits or proofs or other writerly tasks to be done, it’s that OR drafting the new novel, not both.

All other tasks, like blogging, checking emails, housework (ha!), (damn that reminded me I had to set the robot vacuum going while writing this post), book publicity, etc. all has to be squeezed into those precious baby-free hours – or I have to ask myself whether it is in fact something which can be managed during a baby-present period of the day.

I can work while the baby is there. It’s just harder. Sometimes she plays at my feet or watches Play School or runs off into corners to giggle with her big sister. Sometimes she clings to me like a limpet. Sometimes she really really REALLY wants me to read that story to her for the third time, or dance like a giraffe, or build a tower so she can knock it over with her mighty tiny hands. No, she can’t talk yet. Yes, she gets her message across.

The tasks which get pushed into the ‘sure I can do that when the baby’s awake’ list, it has to be said, tend not to get done at all. It’s an erratic sort of list and I do feel rather sorry for the tasks that get shoved there indefinitely.

Technically anything that involves my laptop (WRITING BOOK) should be easier than anything that requires me being in another part of the house (WASHING UP, and damn I still haven’t set the vacuum going…). But I have to think about my brain, too. I’m fairly well acquainted with how it works these days and while it is technically possible for me to write a few paragraphs of the new book draft in between breastfeeding and ‘this little piggy,’ it’s not a very effective way to produce dark, sexy prose.

Which is all a long way around saying that reading books, a task which can technically be performed anywhere, and which technically requires less attention span than writing books, often gets shoved into the ‘oh I can do that while baby’s awake’ list. And that’s how I end up with books scattered, half-read, across the house, all with their bookmarks missing (Jem likes to steal bookmarks, it is less appalling than her book chewing phase was, but the glee on her face as she does it makes it very clear that she know EXACTLY HOW EVIL IT IS) and my ability to concentrate on anything more complex than Spot Goes To School goes out the window.

It’s easy, when I’m not reading, to think about the task as an indulgence, or a reward. Something to be done when the housework (DAMN IT, okay, I’m setting the vacuum up now). Somehow I have no problem justifying the expense of books to myself or my partner (duh, tax-deductible!) or the space they take up in the house (THESE ARE MY TOOLS OF WORK!) but I still can’t shake that guilty feeling if I have to admit I spent half my work day reading.

But here’s the thing: reading makes me write better. I don’t just mean research books which I hope will save me from major Jubilee-Line-in-World-War-2 type faux pas, or even those gorgeous classics of literature which train me to write better sentences, through pure osmosis. Reading anything, but especially books that inspire me with their goodness and occasionally those that anti-inspire me with their woefulness, flips a switch in my head that makes me think more actively about writing, and technique, and theme, and what I’m actually doing in that dratted book of mine.

No other leisure activity does this so successfully. Some do a bit – my new habit of inhaling Big Finish audios are quite close to it, and TV & movies-at-the-cinema often spark off the Story Creatures in my brain. (I recently watched 4 episode of Skins in a row and by the end of it was trying to figure out if I could achieve anything close to it with a series of linked short stories IN SPACE) But books are the best. They remind me, over and over, that I am a writer, and if I’m reading regularly while writing first draft work, then the work I produce is better and cleaner and more inspired, and faster to produce.

As long as, you know, I remember to put the books down SOMETIMES and pick up the damn laptop. Which really isn’t a problem at the moment, as I’ve got so out of practice at reading substantial works that I don’t seem capable of sitting still for more than 15 minutes at a time. Good for a less sedentiary lifestyle, not so good for finishing the latest Glenda Larke before Volume 3 comes out.

Does reading make YOU write better, or does it get in the way? What fiction has inspired you lately?

Posted in Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , | 16 Comments »

Winner of Jennifer Willis Give-away!

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on May 25, 2011

Jennifer says:

While I’m still curious about what horrible job situations you might condemn Thor to, I’m impressed that Amelia is planning to hit the ground running at her convention this July, and I hope she’ll report back on her adventures with bookmarks.
Thanks also to Maree and Nicole for weighing in. It’s true that many authors — “traditional” and indie alike — have to rely increasingly on their own efforts to promote their books, but this also means you’re not limited to conventional marketing. When it comes to getting the word out about your own books, let your creativity reign!
Amanda, you can contact Jennifer on:  jen(at)jennifer-willis(dot)com

Posted in Authors and Public Speaking, Book Giveaway, e-books, Promoting your Book | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Aurealis Blowout!

Posted by richardharland on May 22, 2011

Wow! Didn’t we do amazingly well? The RORettes had nominations in about five categories, and won 4 of them. FOUR! Never in the history of human endeavor (deep growly voice) has so much been won by so few in so many categories. Only, guys, we have to stop doubling up – Trent and Tansy shortlisted in the same category, Margo and Dirk and Tansy, Marianne and Marianne.

PS great to see Marianne get the award she’s so long deserved. Just shows, if you keep getting shortlisted, you have to win eventually.

Congratulations to everyone, RORettes and non-RORettes alike, and to the organizers of the event (Nathan and Susan) – it was all very smooth-running, very impressive, in a wonderful venue.

Cheers,
Richard

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

Aurealis Award Wins for ROR Writers!

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on May 21, 2011

First of all, it must be said that being a finalist in these awards is an achievement. Congrats to all the finalists. Secondly, I’d like to congratulate everyone who won in their sections.

But, since this is the ROR blog, I’m going to do a WOOT for the team.

Winner of the Young Adult Short Story Aurealis Award:

Margo Lanagan ‘A Thousand Flowers’ published in ‘Zombies Vs Unicorns’, by Allen & Unwin.

Winner Horror Short Story Aurealis Awards:

Richard Harland ‘The Fear’, which appeared in ‘Macabre: A Journey through Australia’s Darkest Fears’, published by Brimstone Press.

Winner Fantasy Novel Aurealis Awards:

Tansy Rayner Roberts ‘Power and Majesty’, published by Voyager, (Harper Collins).

Winner Science Fiction Novel Aurealis Awards:

Marienne de Pierres  ‘Transformation Space’ published by Orbit (Hachette).

Break out the cyber champers!

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Awards, Genre Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Countdown to the Aurealis Awards 2011!

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on May 20, 2011

Well, it’s that time of year again. And this year the Aurealis Awards will be held in Sydney. Harper Collins Voyager is sponsoring the awards. Kudos to the new AA management team, SpecFaction for pulling it all together. A national award like this with a different panel for each section, and a different panel for both the novels length and short stories is a major taks to organise.

This year the RORees have books and short stories in several section.

Young Adult Short Story

Dirk Flinthart has a story in this section. Goodluck with ‘One Story, No Refunds’ which appeared in ‘Shiny’ #6, from Twelfth Planet Press.

I’d wish Dirk all the luck inthe world, but this is where it gets tricky because Margo Langan has a story in the same section. ‘A Thousand Flowers’ published in ‘Zombies Vs Unicorns’, by Allen & Unwin.

Then to make matters even more complicated, Tansy Rayner Roberts has a story which she co-wrote with Kaia Landelius in this section. ‘Nine Times’ appeared in ‘Worlds Next Door’, published by Fablecroft Publishing.

Horror Short Story

Richard Harland’s story ‘The Fear’, which appeared in ‘Macabre: A Journey through Australia’s Darkest Fears’, published by Brimstone Press.

Horror Novel

Here we have Trent Jamieson with the first book of his ‘Death Works’ trilogy, ‘Death Most Definite’, published by Orbit (Hachette).

Fantasy Novel

Here Trent’s book ‘Death Most Definite’ appears again, along with book one of Tansy’s Creature Court trilogy, ‘Power and Majesty’, published by Voyager, (Harper Collins).

Science Fiction Short Story

Tansy does it again, with her short story ‘Relentless Adaptions’, which appeared in ‘Sprawl’, published by Twelfth Planet Press.

Science Fiction Novel

Marienne de Pierres’ books from her ‘Sentients of Orion’ series, ‘Mirror Space’ and ‘Transformation Space’ publsihed by Orbit (Hachette).

So, here’s wishing the RORees best of luck on Saturday night. TAnd while we’re at it the ROR team would like to wish all the finalists* the best of luck and congratulate them all for making it into the final 5 or less.

We’ll keep you posted. Tansy is going to be a presenter, so I’m sure she’ll be tweeting from the audience.

*For those of you who would like to view the complet list of finalist see here.

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Awards, Fantasy Genre | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Speaking as an Author …

Posted by richardharland on May 20, 2011

With LIBERATOR now out on the bookshelves, I’ve just started on the promo round. I’m doing school visits in the Orange-Bathurst area this week, then it’s down to Melbourne and Victoria for the next fortnight, then Central Coast NSW, then Canberra … I’m enjoying it right now, but I’ll be desperate for a nice long quiet period of solitary writing by the time it’s finished.

Still, I do enjoy it, and Rowena suggested I think up some tips on public speaking for authors. Not easy, because I’ve never consciously developed any techniques … I guess speaking to large numbers of people always came naturally to me – it’s talking with individuals that used to make me nervous! But here goes …

1. Mean what you say, think it as you say it. Okay, it’s not new to you, maybe you’ve even rehearsed it beforehand – but it has to be new again now with this audience. Spontaneity doesn’t have to be complete off-the-cuff originality, just meaning what you say. Really care about it, and you’ll stop caring about how people are looking at you!

2. Don’t use notes. If you start using notes, they become a prop until you’re afraid to do without them.

3. Look at particular people in your audience, address them but don’t stare at them. Speak personally to two or three people here, then two or three people there, then two or three people somewhere else.

4. Don’t hide behind a lectern or table. You speak with your whole body, so get used to being fully visible!

5. Use your arms, make gestures, but not constantly – don’t flutter! Try to vary your gestures, practice gestures that tie in with particular things you’ll be saying. It’s probably more important to practice what you’ll do with your arms than to practice what you’ll say with your voice.

6. Try not to ‘um’ and ‘er’. Once you start it’s very hard to get out of the habit. Most ‘ums’ and ‘ers’ come from rushing what you’re saying. Take your time, measure your words. There’s a way of slightly dragging out the end of one phrase while you get the next one ready in your mind.

7. Pregnant silences! When you can do this, you’ve really arrived. A deliberate pause and holding back, keeping your audience waiting for the end of the sentence, the conclusion to the idea. Start in a small way – just decide in advance a couple of places in a whole talk where you’ll make a pause – and force yourself to go through with it. Artificial confidence, but you can turn it into real confidence. Teach yourself not to be afraid of momentary silences, teach yourself that pauses are your friend and not your enemy – then, hey, you can do anything!

8. Be personal, include some real stories about yourself, some confessions. Best of all is if your audience feels you’re admitting things to them that you wouldn’t normally admit. (And owning up to your own nervousness can always be a good start …)

9. Have a simple outline of what you’re going to say in your head. Don’t try to marshal all the tiny details, just the basic areas to cover, half a dozen main steps or stages. If you miss out on some of the details when you do your talk, so what? That’s part of a real live talk. Perfection is for writing!

10. Never rely on the technology. I love creating PowerPoints mainly because it’s such fun setting up the images and backgrounds. (I blame Aileen, she turned me on to them.) But I always have big A3 laminated placards for the most important images. (OfficeWorks can do it from a file, not expensive.) So I can hold up the placards – and it’s always good to have something for show-and-tell – when the technology fails, which happens about twenty-five per cent of the time.

11. Don’t hyperventilate before you’re due to speak. One way to calm your breathing is to put a finger over one nostril and breathe slowly in and out through the other nostril.

12. If you’re liable to get panicky, ask your doctor for Beta-blockers (e.g Inderal). Take one an hour or half an hour before speaking, and they’ll prevent that adrenalin rush. They’re safe enough; many people take one a day for blood pressure conditions. Never give yourself courage by hitting the booze before you have to speak – you need all your faculties at full alertness. (And definitely not for school visits!)

Hah! That wasn’t so bad – I came up with more tips than I expected. I had to remember a long way back for some of them. I guess it’s like everything else – you start by mastering simple rules, and when you’ve absorbed you can afford to break them.

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Authors and Public Speaking | 2 Comments »

Inner Editor

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on May 14, 2011

(Cross posted from Mad Genius Club – Writer’s’ Division)

This is the cover of book three of my new trilogy The Outcast Chronicles. With thanks to Clint Langley the artist and Solaris, the publisher!

I’m on the home stretch now, cleaning up book three ready to send to the publisher. Yesterday I was working on a scene when I realised I needed to add a new scene near the beginning to foreshadow an event and build tension. I’m a pantser. I have an idea where I’m going and a feel for what I want to say, then I go on a journey with the characters discovering the story as it unfolds.

I’m not alone in this. In an interview with Joe Abercrombie, George RR Martin said: ‘There are two types of writers – the gardeners and the architects. The architect plans the entire house before he drives a nail; he draws up blueprints, he knows how deep the basement is going to be dug and how many rooms there are going to be, where the plumbing is going to be. And then there are the gardeners who dig a hole, plant a seed and water it with their blood, and then they see what comes up, and they kind of shape it. I’m much more of a gardener. ‘ To see the full interview go here.

I don’t know if I could write any other way. It is a leap of faith, but I trust my Inner Editor to let me know when something isn’t working. And, after I’ve mowed the yard or cleaned the kitchen, the answer will come to me. I’ll know what’s needed to pull the story together.

For many years now, I haven’t been able to read books without seeing the writing craft that went into it, just as I can’t watch movies without seeing the art direction, the camera angles, the characterisation and plotting. When I do discover a book or a movie that makes me forget the craft because the story sweeps me away, then I consider myself really lucky. (And of course I have to watch/read it again to discover the hidden craft).

I’m beginning to think there is such a thing as the ‘story gene’. Sure you can learn all the writing or movie making craft, but some people just have the ability to tell a good story. Do you think there is an innate aspect to writing?

And just for fun – here’s a look at people and their on-line avatars.

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Covers, Creativity, Editing and Revision, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Decision Time – LIBERATOR prizes

Posted by richardharland on May 11, 2011

I have to decide – I can’t decide! But I must decide! I had so much fun reading the entries. You all ought to be doing standup comedy!

For Favourite Corset with Reasons, the prize goes to Ben(C), for admirably detailed examination of the picture, with imaginative swashbuckling interpretation. It was so good that I could even work out that you were talking about the Male Dashing Corset although you called it the Male Black. (Referee judges that a pardonable error because I stuffed up the captions). So drop a line with your snailmail address, Ben –
richard@richardharland.net
and a signed copy of LIBERATOR will be coming out in the mail to you.
(If you want it signed to another name, let me know.

(Here’s the picture alongside Ben’s comment)

The ‘Male Black’ definitely the best.
Both because I suspect that, in a moment, one will accuse the other of being a right guttersnipe and they’ll need to get those crossed – possibly golf clubs? – down from above that mirror and swing from chandeliers as they have at it(Also – are those spikes sticking up from the boots under the chair…? Is some sort of convoluted assassination attempt occurring here…?)
And, secondly, I like to think that these two likely lads will later get involved in fighting a dashing yet fearful Piratess of the Air and, whilst heroically swordfighting around the deck and/or above a perilous abyss, she will slash their bodices in a moment that will bring much-needed balance to the world of swashbuckling in general (Huzzah!)

For Best Make-Up-Your-Own corset, the prize goes to Sally Newnham, for the totally bizarre incongruous juggernaut corset. Wish I could put up a picture, but no artist could rise to the task. A mind big enough to imagine something like that deserves a prize!

I’m picturing a Juggernaut Corset, myself. Those sprawling monstrosities need some reining in and what better way to do it? Imagine! A Juggernaut with a waistline! An Hourglass Juggernaut! Constructed of course from vast sheets of beaten steel, plenty of sexy rivets. Stylish yet functional clockwork mechanisms to manage the tree-trunk thick tightening cables. Hot!

Ditto to you Sally – send in your snailmail address to –
richard@richardharland.net
and a signed copy of LIBERATOR will be trundling its mighty way towards you (well, it is 465 pages – great value at $19.99 for everyone who didn’t win a copy in the comp).

PS The runner-up in both halves of the competition was Louise – you were hilarious twice over! But anyone who owns a real-life corset like that – I checked it out – well, I reckon you’ve already rewarded yourself!

Thanks to everyone who took part – thanks for all the chuckles!

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

Competition Deadline!

Posted by richardharland on May 7, 2011

I should’ve said – the deadline for the competition to win free copies of LIBERATOR (just released) is Wednesday 11th May. Check out those steampunky corsets below!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »